Russian court extends detention of Russian-US journalist


MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court on Thursday ordered a detained Russian-American journalist to be held in jail for two more months pending trial in a case widely seen as part of the Kremlin’s unrelenting crackdown on dissent and free speech.

Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir service, was taken into custody on Oct. 18 and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent while collecting information about the Russian military. Later, she was also charged with spreading “false information” about the Russian military.

Kurmasheva, who holds U.S. and Russian citizenship and lives in Prague with her husband and two daughters, could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

The court in Tatarstan has rejected appeals from Kurmasheva’s lawyer to place her under house arrest.

RFE/RL expressed outrage over Thursday’s court decision to extend Kurmasheva’s detention until April 5 and demanded her immediate release.

“Russian authorities are conducting a deplorable criminal campaign against the wrongfully detained Alsu Kurmasheva,” RFE/RL President Stephen Capus said in a statement. He said she was jailed and “treated unjustly simply because she is an American journalist.”

International human rights groups have denounced Kurmasheva’s arrest as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to stifle free speech.

Russian authorities have intensified a crackdown on Kremlin critics and independent journalists after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February 2022, using legislation that effectively criminalized any public expression about the conflict that deviates from the Kremlin line.

Kurmasheva was the second U.S. journalist detained in Russia last year, after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in March. Gershkovich remains in custody.

Kurmasheva was stopped June 2 at Kazan International Airport after traveling to Russia the previous month to visit her ailing elderly mother. Officials confiscated her U.S. and Russian passports and fined her for failing to register her U.S. passport. She was waiting for her passports to be returned when she was arrested on new charges in October.

RFE/RL was told by Russian authorities in 2017 to register as a foreign agent, but it has challenged Moscow’s use of foreign agent laws in the European Court of Human Rights. The organization has been fined millions of dollars by Russia.

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